Briony Horgan (B.S. OSU Physics, 2005), Associate Professor of Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, is a member of the science team that will launch the NASA Mars rover Perseverance in the next few weeks. The rover will travel to Jezero Crater, which preserves evidence of a time when rivers flowed on Mars. Prof. Horgan led a study of the mineralogy of the site, which produced one of the major results that contributed to its selection. She was also on the team that designed the camera that will be the scientific eyes for Perseverance. Well done Briony – and best of luck with the mission!
For the full story and image credit, see this link.


Three OSU Physics alums are among 2,046 graduate students nationwide to receive the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Program award that pays stipend and partial tuition for 3 years. Congratulations to all three! See the Impact article from the College of Science for some more details about other College of Science GRFP recipients.

Head shot of Mirek Brandt at Oregon State
Mirek Brandt in 2017

Mirek Brandt (BS in Physics & Mathematics 2018) worked in the Graham group while at Oregon State. His thesis was on The Impact of Crystal Morphology on the Opto-Electronic Properties of Amorphous and Organic Crystalline Materials. He won a Goldwater Scholarship as an undergraduate and then moved on to the University of California at Santa Barbara where he is doing his doctorate in Astrophysics.

Katelyn Chase (BS in Physics 2018) worked in Bo Sun’s biophysics laboratory during her time at OSU and wrote her thesis on Synchronized Cellular Mechanosensing due to External Periodic Driving. She is now a Ph. D. candidate at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, conducting research in the Gitai bacterial biology laboratory, studying cytoskeletal proteins. She is interested in proteins involved in bacterial cell shape formation and maintenance. Her photo shows her in Iceland in January.

Patrick Flynn (BS in Physics and Mathematics, 2018) did his senior thesis project on Localized structures in a diffusive run and tumble model for M. xanthus, as part of the Complex Systems REU at the University of Minnesota with Arnd Scheel (Bo Sun was the local advisor).  Patrick also contributed to the linear solver code for the Monte-Carlo simulations performed in David Roundy’s research group in Physics.  Patrick is now a Ph. D. candidate in the Department of Applied Mathematics at Brown University. He is studying the Euler- and Vlasov-Poisson models appearing in plasma and astrophysics. His NSF GRFP proposal was about answering questions such as the existence and stability of solitary waves, or the existence of solutions containing many interacting solitary waves, for the Euler- and Vlasov-Posson equations.  Patrick says he is “very enthusiastic about being able to address questions that have been partially addressed by the physics community to discover new mathematics, and in turn inform scientific discovery. Of course, my time at Oregon State was very formative in this regard, and I still heavily rely on what I learned in the mathematics and physics programs there. After all, I first learned what a dispersion relation was from David Roundy!” The accompanying picture shows Patrick on the Brown Campus.

See the Impact article from the College of Science for some more details about College of Science GRFP recipients.

The Apollo Chronicles: Engineering America’s First Moon Missions” (Oxford University Press) is Professor Brandon R. Brown‘s second book, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk by the astronauts of Apollo 11 in 1969. Brown’s book chronicles the work of the engineers driving the endeavor, and his family was part of that experience – his father was an engineer at NASA working on the Apollo missions at the time.

The book made its debut June 13 and there was a launch party at Folio Books in San Francisco. The Apollo Chronicles is reviewed in the “Books and Arts” section of the July 8 edition of Nature and by American Scientist, which said, “Brown shows the engineers meeting tough deadlines and performing technical miracles, drawing schematics around the clock, making mistakes, coping with warning lights that blinked at the worst possible time, and regrouping after the tragic death of three astronauts in a fire that broke out in the capsule during a simulated countdown early in 1967.”

 Now Professor and Chair of Physics at the University of San Francisco, Brandon is a graduate of our department. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Physics from OSU in 1997, studying vortex depinning in single-crystal YBaCuO in Janet Tate’s group. He subsequently spent a year studying science writing at the University of Santa Cruz, earning a post-doctoral certificate in Science Communication. After joining USF as an Assistant Professor of Physics, he pursued research in biosensing, and published several well-received articles on how sharks perceive temperature changes using a sensitive gel present in their noses. He has taught many, many different courses and is a gifted teacher. He has done several stints as department chair and has also served as Associate Dean for Sciences.

In 2015 Brandon published his first book, Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War (Oxford University Press), a biography of Max Planck and his path through World War II. From Planck to the Apollo missions – where will he go next?!

[Images from Professor Brown’s web page and Oxford University Press.]

Addendum, July 15.
Prof. Brown has recently published two short columns discussing aspects of his book.
Scientific American 7/12/19: Celebrating the Engineers behind the First Moon Landing
Smithsonian Guest Blog 7/12/19: Apollo Engineers Discuss What It Took to Land on the Moon

Weimin C. Han

Congratulations to Weimin Han (OSU Physics, Ph.D. 1992) who has been selected as an Intel Fellow! Weimin joins a select group of people so honored by one of the world’s largest tech companies. He is currently Director of Thin Film Technology at Intel’s campus in Hillsboro, OR, and has been with Intel since 1992.

Weimin remembers his time at OSU very fondly. “I am proud of OSU Physics and had a great, fun time while I was at OSU 30 years ago!” he said in a recent email. We remember that Weimin was an excellent student and that he has been a wonderful ambassador for our program.

Weimin’s Ph.D. dissertation was on the NMR of GaAs at high temperature. His thesis advisor was Prof. John Gardner, who has since retired from OSU to start ViewPlus Technologies, an industry-leading manufacturer of high-definition tactile graphics. John says, “I am really proud of Weimin. He and I are much more than teacher/student. We are good friends.” John credits Weimin with helping him through a particularly difficulty period in his life. When John lost his sight in 1988, Weimin took him to the hospital several times and even took him on his first skiing trip as a blind person. “He is one of the nicest people on earth,” says John. One of the nicest people on earth is also one of the most technically and intellectually talented, and deserves such an honor! Well done, Weimin!

Elaine Yunker Whiteley

Elaine Yunker Whiteley passed away in Portland on January 4, 2019. Elaine and her husband Ben Whiteley were long-time supporters of OSU Physics, the College of Science and the University. Elaine was the daughter of Edwin Yunker, former chair of OSU Physics. Elaine and her brother Wayne Yunker and other family and friends of Ed Yunker established an endowment to support the Yunker Lecture series, which has brought many distinguished speakers to the Physics Department to share their passion for science. Elaine and Ben also established the Whiteley fellowship, supporting graduate students in Materials Physics and Chemistry. Elaine and Ben received the College of Science Distinguished Service Award in 2016.

Elaine was also a patron of the arts, an avid reader and she loved the outdoors. At her memorial service in Portland, Elaine was fondly remembered by her sons Stephen and Ben Jr as a kind, generous, intelligent and determined woman. That’s how we remember her, too. We will miss Elaine and Ben’s presence at the Yunker Lectures, but their gift lives on.


Link to the obituary of Elaine Whiteley in the Oregonian.

Reposted from

A senior’s gut decision in high school to major in physics holds steady four years later

Looking back on his gut decision in high school to major in physics after taking a class in it, graduating senior Abe Teklu remains somewhat mystified. “I guess I was just really confident,” he laughs.
Abe grew up around numbers and changing locations, moving from Ethiopia to Arizona at age six when his father got an engineering job at Intel, and then moving to Colorado before his family settled outside of Portland when he was 12.
His family is mathematically inclined. His mom is an accountant and his dad, who not so secretly yearned to be a mathematician, is an engineer who reads calculus books and earned a master’s degree in fluid dynamics. This home field advantage explains some of Abe’s youthful confidence (he “loved math” even as a child) but since then Abe has carried the ball all on his own.
At Oregon State as an Honors physics student, Abe has remained confident – at least most of the time – as well as comfortable with numbers and shifting contexts. He has had three research internships. The first was the summer after his sophomore year when he had a paid internship at Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) in Evanston, Illinois, in a rather niche but fascinating area of speculative research called astrobiology. There Abe analyzed mathematical models of theoretical predator-prey systems not limited to planet Earth.
The summer before his junior year, Abe headed down to San Diego for another paid internship, this time at the U.S. Department of Energy’s DIII-D National Fusion Facility. The facilty consists of a tokamak, a magnetic fusion device which Abe describes as “a big metal donut spinning plasma to get fusion energy.” Abe used magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) theory to model plasma confinement, with the goal of understanding which conditions better spread heat flux in the divertor region.
In his third research experience, Abe spent more than two years working in physics department head Heidi Schellman’s Particle Physics Research Group, analyzing neutrino-antineutrino data as part of the MINERvA, a major international research effort exploring matter-antimatter differences in neutrino physics. This involved aiming a beam of neutrinos from Illinois to South Dakota. Specifically, Abe worked on the recoil energies recorded when the rare neutrino-antineutrino reactions hit parallel strips of the scintillator, each of which is connected to a photomultiplier tube that determines how much energy is deposited in a strip.
Abe’s research experiences beyond the classroom gave him many advantages. For one, the DIII-D fusion internship formed the basis for his senior thesis. He also learned valuable lessons about the nature of scientific work.
“Unlike class, where there is always an answer, research is open-ended. It was difficult for me at first, but I came to appreciate that even if you don’t solve a problem, you are contributing to a much larger research effort with scientists around the world that will one day lead to a solution.”
Throughout his four years at OSU, community and relationships were key to Abe’s success, a sentiment reflected in his two top pieces of advice for new students.
“Have as much fun as you can freshman year. Talk toeveryone. You will have the most free time this year and so it’s a great time to meet new people and make friends. It gets harder after that.”
As an Honors College freshman, Abe enjoyed meeting friends in his dorm, Cauthorne, and also hung out in West so often that he was mistaken as a resident. He was and is “surprised by the amount of really smart people here. So many amazing people – and it’s so cool now to see all of my friends going off to exciting new destinations next year, from MIT to Brown to AI research!”
His second piece of advice?
“Talk to professors. Go to office hours. Not just to talk about academics, but just to talk about life. It’s helped me out a lot.”
Some of his favorite professors to hang out with are physicists Corinne Monogue, who he calls a “great teacher and person to talk to about anything at all” and Heidi Schellman. Abe suggests another good reason to talk with professors:  It’s a “great way to start research sooner.”
To wit, when Abe visited to Schellman during her office hours, she began describing her research and Abe just jumped in and asked if he could help.
“That day she gave me a key to her lab and I started doing research!” Two years later, Abe still has a coveted seat in Schellman’s Lab and is currently mentoring a new student to take his place after graduation.
Despite his success at OSU, Abe has faced his share of rejection and challenging times. Before joining the Schellman Lab, he was turned down as a freshman for research positions. The fall of his senior year was a really difficult time. After an intense summer working at the fusion facility DIII-D in San Diego, he returned to campus for a nonstop term which on top of his usual demanding coursework included studying for the Physics GRE, applying to graduate schools, writing his senior thesis and dealing with the inevitable “personal stuff.”
“I was overwhelmed and my confidence was shaken. Was I good enough? I had imposter syndrome. The only thing that got me out of it,” Abe reflects, “was just to endure. I just kept going step by step, every single day. I had to keep going and I did and it finally got better.”
It certainly did. Abe was accepted into the physics Ph.D. program at Stonybrook University in Long Island, New York, remarking with great enthusiasm upon the fact that there are no less than “60-70 physics researchers there!” Not wasting any time, he will jumpstart his graduate research this summer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, working on a yet-to-be-defined research project with his graduate advisor.
Abe is grateful for the science education he has received at Oregon State and was not surprised when he heard that the Department of Physics recently received a national award for improving undergraduate physics education.
“All of my professors were great,” he said. The junior-year Paradigms in Physics series in particular, which was redesigned to include interactive pedagogies and real-world applications to better reflect how professional physicists think, was a real game-changer for Abe.
“[The junior-year Paradigms in Physics] was hard, but it was great and everyone in the class bonded together. We came out feeling that we could do anything!”
Abe’s gratitude extends to the many scholarships he received that helped cement his choice to go to Oregon State. He received the university’s four-year Academic Achievement award as well as a freshman year Honors College scholarship, a Kenneth S. Krane Scholarship in Physics and a David B. Nicodemus Scholarship in Physics.
Rebecca Grollman, Graham Founds, Rick Wallace and  Oksana Ostroverkhova’s paper “Simultaneous fluorescence and surface charge measurements on organic semiconductor-coated silica microspheres” has been featured by Advances in Engineering  as a key scientific article contributing to excellence in science and engineering research.  See

for a short summary of the paper and a short video highlighting the result.

Press release from Mississippi State about Physics Alumna Kimberly Wood:

April 9, 2018

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A tropical cyclone authority at Mississippi State is a new selection for the American Meteorological Society’s Early Career Leadership Academy.

Assistant professor Kimberly Wood soon will be among nearly three dozen 2018 ECLA members receiving special training in Washington, D.C. She came to the Starkville campus three years ago.

Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, the American Meteorological Society is the nation’s premier organization for atmospheric, oceanic and hydrologic sciences. Its 13,000 members include researchers, educators, students, enthusiasts, broadcasters and others in these fields.

Supported by IBM, the AMS leadership academy works to sustain a diverse network of early-career achievers. Creative problem-solving, conflict resolution and enhancement of communication skills are major components of the curriculum.

Wood is a 2012 University of Arizona doctoral graduate in atmospheric science and remote sensing. She became an AMS member in 2008.

“Dr. Wood is the only MSU faculty member that has intentionally flown into the eye of a hurricane to collect data,” noted John Rodgers, interim head of the Department of Geosciences. Alongside experiences with hazardous weather systems, she has “excellent computer modeling skills and extensive knowledge of the application of satellite technologies to meteorology,” he said.

Her research “adds a very important component to our already outstanding meteorology program,” Rodgers added.

Wood said her leadership academy participation “already has borne fruit in the form of expanding connections with colleagues I may never have interacted with outside of such a program.” She also credits “strong support” from MSU colleagues and resources for the development of her chosen career.

Last year, she was selected to represent Mississippi at a congressional visit day organized in the nation’s capital by the American Geophysical Union. After helping stress the importance of continued federal science funding, she was asked by the AGU to also join its Climate Science Day program taking place on Capitol Hill in early 2018.

“I believe both experiences positively contributed to my selection for the ECLA, as well as the vision I have for my scientific career,” Wood said.

Academy membership involves a rigorous evaluation process, with documentation required of major accomplishments, successful experiences communicating across cultures and disciplines, and challenges involving weather, water and climate systems.

Wood is a Beaverton, Oregon, native who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Oregon State University. She also holds a master’s in atmospheric sciences from the University of Arizona. More biographical information may be read via the “About Us” link at the departmental website

Missions of the American Meteorological Society and Early Career Leadership Academy are online at

MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,200 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 25 academic majors offered in 14 departments. Complete details about the College of Arts and Sciences may be found at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at


Ben Whiteley, right, with Prof. Janet Tate and Elaine Whiteley at the COS awards earlier this year.

Ben Whiteley, who with his wife Elaine, had been long term supporter of Physics at Oregon State, passed away in Portland on May 4th. Ben was CEO of Standard Insurance from 1983-1994 and a leader in Oregon business and philanthropy. The Whiteley’s have sponsored the Whiteley Materials Research Fund, which supports research in Materials, and in memory of Elaine’s father – Edwin Yunker, long-serving chair of Physics – the Yunker Lecture series that brings famous scientists to our Department every year.  He was a long-serving OSU trustee. Ben and Elaine received the College of Science Distinguished Service Award in 2016.


Ben’s impact on Oregon and our Department cannot be overstated, we’ll miss him and send our deepest condolences to Elaine and his family.

Obituary from the Oregonian